Lessons I Learned Today 6/25/09 – The Yin Yang of Innovators and Cybersquatters

This is a digest and recap of highlights, quotes, and comments from articles and discussions posted on this date on the Applied Entrepreneurship, LinkedIn group site.

 

*Attraction Marketing Made Simple by Franco Gonzalez

“By personally branding yourself using web sites, blogs, videos and social networking such as Facebook, Twitter and email marketing – a home based entrepreneur can attract like minded people who resonate or relate with their story, their background, their hometown, their college or high school… anything really and it helps them build their list of contacts, share their business opportunity and the value they can bring to the new member.”

“By constantly learning and having a valuable set of skills to share or powerful information in the area of personal growth, business, internet marketing etc… and having access to tools, systems, teams and leadership that can help others, you are seen as being attractive to other aspiring entrepreneurs.”

“The more targeted you are in your marketing, the faster your sales cycle will be, however, it’s also valuable long term to send your message to some of the masses to attract new markets to learn about what you do. It’s a longer term sales cycle, but can be a profitable addition to your attraction marketing.”

 

*Mike Sheehan on Taking Over

“Mike Sheehan, recognized that to take the company to the next level of growth, he had to preserve the culture that founder Jack Connors had forged while being a true leader in his own right.”

“Part of the interest in coming back here was I liked working in that culture and I wanted to continue that. By the same token, I wanted it to change,” he says. “I thought that to grow it appropriately and to reach its full potential, the next generation had to be about a team of people who worked well together and could grow the agency.”

 

*The Ever Inventive Saul Griffith by Jessie Scanlon

“Saul Griffith first garnered attention as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in 2002, when he developed a machine that could mold prescription eyeglass lenses on demand for just a few dollars a pop. Since earning his PhD in 2004 the inventor and entrepreneur has launched or helped to launch no fewer than seven companies, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and in 2007, at the age of 33, won a “genius grant” of $500,000 from the MacArthur Foundation.”

“While most scientists go deep but narrow, focusing on one subject or problem, Griffith is ecumenical, following his curiosity and his conscience wherever they take him, and then digging deep into the issues that grab him.” Griffith and partners started Squid Labs, a consulting company and business incubator, but “decided that the world didn’t like incubators” and closed it. They then spun off some of the better prospects, however, and “staffed the startups by tapping their network for technically skilled people and funded them with a mix of angel money, venture capital, and grants.”

Those companies include Howtoons, a popular series of comic books that teach kids about science; Instructables, an open-source Web site of do-it-yourself projects with almost 900,000 unique users; and Potenco, a startup developing ways to charge electronic devices using human power. “I need to be thinking about a few things at once,” Griffith confesses. “I think it actually helps because you’re cross-fertilizing yourself.”

“Last year, he co-developed WattzOn, a personal Web-based energy audit that people can use to calculate their energy consumption. And in 2006 he founded Makani Power, an innovative wind-power startup, also in Alameda.”

He and his engineers are now working on capturing high altitude winds “which contain more energy per square foot than any other renewable source.” Futurist Andrew Zolli, says of Griffith, “Give that man a lever long enough and he’ll change the world—or the lever.”

 

*Innovators in Social Media by Stephen Baker

“It started out with a question: who to profile as a Voice of Innovation for social media? The answer lay in four separate profiles. We divided social media into four categories and picked a representative of each.”

  • 1) Toolmasters: Noah Brier, who works days in New York at Barbarian Group, an interactive marketing shop and by night pieces together new social-media apps, including Brand Tags
  • 2) Eyes to the World: Beth Kanter  whi uses every avenue on the World Wide Web to raise funds for Cambodian children through her own charity, the Sharing Foundation.
  • 3) Crowdstrappers: Eric Brown, who has turned his apartment business in Royal Oak, Mich., into a social media laboratory.
  • 4) Hidden heroes: Scott Monty, who heads up social media at Ford Motor.

 

* Noah Brier’s Brand Laboratory by Stephen Baker

Noah Brier, who heads planning and strategy at digital marketers Barbarian Group in New York, “has this idea that the world is breaking down our lives and jobs into little pieces, and that the network is the tool we use to scoop it back up and create the world we want.”

“Toolmakers such as Brier … can go beyond words and PowerPoint demos and actually piece together their visions with code.”

“Brier learned how to build elementary Web pages as a 13-year-old middle school student in Connecticut. Later he taught himself PHP, the scripting language for building dynamic Web sites. He makes it clear that his level of expertise is, at best, basic. But the point is that when he gets an idea, he can try stuff.”

Brier “decided to create a tool to harvest the public’s insights on brands. The result is Brand Tags. It’s a Web page that flashes up logos, like so many Rorschach tests, and asks visitors to tag each one with a word or phrase. The more each one is repeated, the larger it appears in each brand’s word cloud. When he blogged about the new site last year, thousands of people flocked to it. Now the site has 1.5 million tags describing nearly 900 brands.”

 

* How to Start a Social Networking Website Part 2 – Business Models and Revenue Streams by Peg Corwin

“What are possible business models for social networking websites? How does the entrepreneur create revenue streams, or monetize the community? I’m no expert, but I’ve rounded up links to alternatives from pros and others. I’ve briefly listed the main revenue sources or summarized content of the links.”

“As a SCORE volunteer counselor, I look at the business plans of those starting or struggling to grow social networking websites. My impression is that there are many potential but few proven and profitable revenue streams.”

“Why do I think that many entrepreneurs create these sites in hot niches not necessarily to make them profitable but to sell them to a big player with deep pockets who can pour in marketing dollars and hold out for a long-term payoff?”

This article contains an extensive and very helpful group of links with commentary. Worth checking out.

 

* Domain-name wars: Rise of the cybersquatters by Robert L. Mitchell

“Trademark owners say cybersquatting on the Web has gone too far — and they’re pushing back.”

“The UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, a procedure set up by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) process, set up 10 years ago, saves time and money by getting offending sites down relatively quickly and without lengthy lawsuits. But it hasn’t deterred cybersquatters, who can come up with domain names that play on a virtually unlimited number of variations on well-known brand names, including common misspellings of those names, to drive traffic to their own sites.”

“Cybersquatting can damage a company’s brand reputation and result in substantial business losses. One company that has tried to defend itself is Verizon Communications Inc., which has aggressively pursued cybersquatters and reclaimed thousands of domain names related to its businesses. This year it activated many of those and set them up to redirect users back to its own Web site.”

“Malicious sites can create havoc with a brand’s reputation. In some cases, criminals have copied a brand’s entire Web site in order to collect usernames and passwords.”

“Eighty percent of the cybersquatting sites MarkMonitor tracked in early 2007 were still online one year later, Feldman says. Why aren’t brand owners pursuing them? Some businesses have had to prioritize which cybersquatters to pursue, while others have given up on the problem or have chosen to ignore it.”

“Trademark holders have responded to the problem by buying up “defensive” domain names so that cybersquatters can’t use them, hiring monitoring services, pursuing violators through the UDRP process, and, increasingly, taking cybersquatters to court.”

“Intellectual property owners can sue cybersquatters under the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, but that is expensive and limits damages to $100,000; they can try to shut down sites containing copyrighted content under provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; and in some cases they may be able to pursue violators for trademark abuse under statutes of the Lanham Act.”

“The cybersquatting pandemic shows no signs of abating. While ICANN has made strides in improving oversight through its audits of registrars, the potential financial gains from cybersquatting remain too high and penalties too small to stop the growth in domain-name brand abuse, let alone deter the practice.”

 

What I Think

I think the articles posted on this date offer the readers a little yin yang. On the one hand, we have prolific innovators like Saul Griffith, who has developed everything from “a machine that could mold prescription eyeglass lenses on demand for just a few dollars a pop,” to comic books that teach kids about science.

On the other hand, we have Robert L. Mitchell’s article about cybersquatters who make their living by acting like leeches, sucking the blood out of brands developed by serial entrepreneurs like Griffith. These pirates use their wits to find loopholes in the laws, typically staying at least a jump or two ahead of legislation designed to curb their impact on the marketplace.

In between, not totally unlike the Taoist trinity of divinities known as the Three Pure Ones, there resides a third element Taiji. Although yin and yang constantly interact, within the apparent void between them lies the ridgepole, constantly trying to reconcile the two apparently opposing forces.

In the case of the articles posted on this date, enter Mike Sheehan. Sheehan left a company, only to circle back and take over the reins from the founder. Unlike the seemingly destructive cycle of innovation and theft, Sheehan accomplished a smooth and successful transition from what worked well in the past to what was needed for the growth and development of the enterprise. He became the ridgepole around which the reconciliation of past and future took place.

As Sheehan said, “In taking over the company, I saw two paths. The first path—and I understood it and I appreciated it—was to continue the cultural platform that Jack (i.e. the founder) had built here.” Although continuing the core values and culture of the company, a factor which drew him back to it in the first place, he was able to transform it in a positive way, giving due respect to the founder. In similar yin yang fashion, the founder, Jack Connors, “knew for all the right reasons why it was time to move on.”

From everything destroyed, comes new life. From every recession comes new growth. Sometimes the destruction is painful, to the sane extent that new life can give us pleasure. Then we begin the cycle again. It is the energy in between which keeps the two forces moving in harmony.

  

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If you enjoyed my impression of these articles, why don’t you read them for yourself and see what you and I missed or hit? Join the Applied Entrepreneurship group on LinkedIn. Membership is free and I try to post about ten articles a day there. We have some great discussions going and if you are an entrepreneur, we hope you will join us.

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Posted in Business interruption, crisis, etc., Business life cycle, copyright, Growing a business, Innovation, Intellectual property, Law, Succession Planning, technology, Unfair competition
2 comments on “Lessons I Learned Today 6/25/09 – The Yin Yang of Innovators and Cybersquatters
  1. Peg Corwin says:

    Thanks much for your link and enthusiasm for my business models and revenue streams post. I encourage you and your readers to leave suggestions or reactions on my post, as I’m trying to gather good resources and ideas in one place.

    • bizlawblog says:

      Peg,

      You have some great posts. I’m a frequent visitor and love what SCORE Chicago is providing. I often refer my clients, including the SCORE clients I counsel in Louisville, to your site to keep up with the great information you are providing. Your resources lists and other links, as well as commentary are extremely helpful. Please keep up the good work.

      Stuart

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